Wednesday, August 28, 2019

STEM LitLinks for BUTTERFLIES IN ROOM 6 at Patricia Newman's Blog

I am happy to contribute to Author/Speaker Patricia Newman's wonderful blog featuring ways to connect STEM books with literature in the classroom. My article Hands-On BUTTERFLY ACTIVITIES Reinforce Reading posted today, joining dozens of previous posts by other children's book science writers and illustrators. In my post I discuss reading strategies to use in the classroom with my book Butterflies in Room 6 along with activities that will help children understand the concepts in the book.
Thanks Patricia for the opportunity to contribute to your terrific site!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

JUGGLER: Evolution of a Book Idea

In 1988, my book JUGGLER (Clarion Books, 1988), with photos by Richard Hewett, was selected as a Junior Library Guild book. As with many of the topics I write about, the idea for the book was planted long before I actually wrote the book, or even became a writer! The evolution of that idea is the subject of my interview in the JLG guide. Here is what I wrote:

When I was growing up, one of the highlights of each year was going to the circus. I always came home wishing that I could walk the tightrope, tame tigers, or swing on the flying trapeze. The jugglers were among my favorite performers and I was fascinated by the ease with which they tossed handfuls of brightly colored objects into the air. It looked so simple, yet when I tried to juggle just three balls at home, they all flew in different directions.
I forgot about juggling for many years, until I met Jahnathon Whitfield at a local authors’ fair. He had come to entertain the children, and when I saw how delighted they were with his juggling act, it made me remember the thrill I had felt so long ago.
For the next several months I talked with Jahnathon and went with him to his juggling class and as he performed in schools, libraries, and summer camps. Richard Hewett documented his activities with photographs. By the time we went to the jugglers’ convention it seemed as if the whole world was tossing objects into the air. It was remarkable to see how many people enjoy juggling and have learned basic steps.
For me, juggling has always seemed magical. The juggler is like a wizard and the juggled objects appear to hang in space, as if time and gravity have been momentarily suspended. In JUGGLER I have tried to convey that sense of awe and at the same time demonstrate that the skill of juggling is something that everyone can do.

JUGGLER is long out of print, and its black-and-white photos now look dated. (Only the cover is in color.) You might be able to find a copy in your library.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


In the hallway at Kipp Raices Academy, Los Angeles, CA
Recently, when I was visiting one of the kindergarten classes at Kipp Raices Academy in Los Angeles, I asked, “Who can tell me what an author does?” and hands shot up with the answer. It turned out that the children knew what authors do because they had learned the Author Song earlier in the year, which they proceeded to sing enthusiastically. And when they finished, they sang the Illustrator Song. They were so excited to have me visit and meet a real live author and illustrator. I was excited to be there! I never knew there was an author song and illustrator song for children until they sang them for me.

                                 Author Song
               (sung to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus)
The author is one who writes the words,
writes the words,
writes the words,
The author is the one who writes the words,
all through the book.

                                Illustrator Song
               (sung to the tune of The Wheels on the Bus)
The illustrator likes to draw and paint,
draw and paint,
draw and paint,
The illustrator likes to draw and paint,
all through the book.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

WHAT IS A CHRYSALIS? Learning about Butterflies

Chrysalis of a Painted Lady butterfly, just before the butterfly is ready to emerge. The caterpillar's shed skin is still attached at the top.
A butterfly has four stages of life-- egg, caterpillar, pupa, and butterfly. The pupa is covered by a hard shell called a chrysalis. It protects the pupa as the pupa changes, or metamorphosizes, into a butterfly.

How do you pronounce chrysalis?
What is the plural of chrysalis?
More than one chrysalis is chrysalises or chrysalides (kri-SAL-i-deez)

What is the origin of the word chrysalis?
It comes from the Latin word chrysallis which means gold-colored pupa of a butterfly and from the Greek word khrusos which means gold.
Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis (at the Museum of Natural Sciences, Raleigh, NC)
Each kind of butterfly has a different color and shape to its chrysalis.The chrysalis of the monarch butterfly has a ring of gold colored spots that make it look like it is wearing a gold necklace. Perhaps a chrysalis like that inspired the name.
Empty chrysalis, after the Painted Lady butterfly has emerged.
In my book, BUTTERFLIES IN ROOM 6, you can see the chrysalises of painted lady butterflies. They are brown. But the butterflies that emerge have beautiful black and orange wings.